Steve: Wonderful. Now, we’ve already spoken before in other interviews about your journey, as well, with tarot. Just in general, where are you at now? You’ve been at it a long time, diving into the world of tarot and magic. Where are you at now with all of this?
Mark Ryan: Well, it’s been a long and interesting journey, and I don’t think in the classic sense it’s an end to the journey. I think it’s an evolution. One of the things I wanted to do with “Wild Magic” was to talk about that evolution, and where to go with it, and where magic and science has gone with it. For me, this whole thing started probably 1989, ’79, 1979 in Los Angeles. There was a store there called the Bodhi Tree, which is much lost and lamented store in Los Angels on Melrose Ave. I actually lectured there a couple of times about the Greenwood Tarot, funny enough.
The Bodhi Tree was this big esoteric bookstore, which had the most amazing atmosphere. I bought, probably, my first tarot deck there. It’s bizarre because the name of the actual deck has completely gone out of my head, but I remember looking at it, and looking at the pictures. It was recommended to me by one of the people in there. I remember taking it back and looking at it and going, “This does not speak to me at all. I don’t understand what this is trying to say.” The pictures were very chaotic and very, almost like curtains stamped on to the cards in the sense that it looked like a collage. The imagery didn’t speak to me. That was the first inclination I got. Although I was fascinated by the concept of tarot, it was also a very personal thing.
I think shortly after that, at somebody else’s advice, I did buy a Rider-Waite deck, which I found most accessible, certainly, and the imagery more accessible, and the system more accessible. Yet, it still, in a way, didn’t come naturally. I had to struggle with the framework, which is why it partly … We developed the Year system for Greenwood Tarot. The Kabbalistic system, again, just wasn’t easy for me. I did try to work on it, and get my head around it, and get it into feeling like a natural system. The Kabbalistic system just did not work for me. That, again, was part of the motivation. It wasn’t just the imagery. It was the system that the imagery was based in that just did not feel a natural fit. That’s when I realised that tarot cards are extremely personal. Your access with them, to them, can be as personal as talking to a little personality.
That was how that all started. It took 20-odd years for me to work that part of it out and go, “Okay. Maybe you should actually seriously look at the concept of designing, building a system that works for you.” Obviously, on the part of that journey was … Along came a show called Robin of Sherwood. My exposure to that part of the esoteric back story in Europe, and particularly Britain, which that, immediately, was accessible to me. I grew up with that. I understood that. That was part of that evolution of building a system that was more accessible for me personally, but I obviously hoped that it would be more accessible to people who are interested in that part of the Wildwood esoteric side of it and to Europe. That’s how it started.
Steve: Okay. Brilliant. Your fans have been sending in all kinds of questions, so I’m just going to send them to you and see what you’re going to say to them. Is the Wildwood Tarot suitable for a brand new tarot reader?
Mark Ryan: I think it is. I think it really depends on where you want with the imagery. A lot of criticisms or comments that I’ve read online from people that have been using the deck, what they say is, “This is a completely different system to most of the systems that are out there.” It’s based on the Wheel of the Year system. Don’t go into it thinking that the way that the cards … As in the Rider-Waite or the imagery in the Rider-Waite, and even the elements in the Rider-Waite, they’re not the same. It’s different. We did it purposefully like that because that’s how instinctively it felt. John and I, and Chesca and I, both felt the same thing, that instinctively and intuitively the way that we looked at the animals, and the seasons, and the Wheel of the Year was a much more natural flow of energy, if you like, of these archetypes.
A lot of first-time readers that go into tarot will look at this. If it speaks to them, then, probably, they’ll stick with it because that’s the system that talks to them. For readers that have probably started out with a different esoteric system, one based on Kabbalah, say … Again, I’ve nothing against Kabbalah. It’s just not a natural fit for me. They may find Wildwood or Greenwood a little bit different. Well, just see it, try it, work with it, and see if it speaks to you. A lot of the stuff I read online around the imagery, particularly Will Worthington’s artwork, which is absolutely brilliant, is that the imagery speaks profoundly and clearly to people. Do they get an immediate hit of the imagery? The imagery’s been described as just brilliant, which it is.